"So how's the ice on Copper Harbor?" Paris Hiltunen asked Don Kauppi.
"Wow," was all he said,
Paris has that effect on people.
"WOW means wide open water," Don continued. "We're planning an ice fishing tournament for March 6 and I sure hope the harbor hardens up by then."
Keweenaw Bay remains ice-free as well; Huron Bay is walkable.
According to local icemeisters here in the northernmost reaches of the Ice Belt, most water has been hard for a while, with 4-6 inches to drill through. But not Copper Harbor; after several unsuccessful attempts to freeze over, it remains ice-free with splake and walleye being caught from docks. Same goes for K-Bay.
If you think they only catch small fish through the ice, think again. They caught some lunkers in last weekend's 25th Annual PAC Fishing Derby on Vermillac Lake; Ryan Erickson caught the largest walleye, 22-1/2 inches and John Swenor caught a 29-inch northern. For more info, call Steve Salli, Ponnistus Athletic Club, 355-2531.
I caught my last fish of the open water season on Copper Harbor on Nov. 21 and I haven't been on a boat or wet a line since. How about you?
"Since then, we've had nonstop snow and a cycle of freeze, thaw and refreeze," said Winter Solstice. "Some lakes are hard as a rock, with honeycombing in some areas and slush with snow cover on top in others."
"In other outdoor news, muskrat and mink trapping ends Jan. 31, so does raccoon hunting. Crow season opens Feb. 1; Groundhog Day is Feb. 2, and our ski hills, XC trails and snowmobile trails are just the way we like them: groomed, tracked and excellent," she let 'er rip with a nonsequitur outa nowhere.
I like Gratiot Lake, Salmon Trout Lake, Portage and Torch, Alberta Pond, Boston Pond, Chassell Bay, Lake Gogebic and both Bays de Noc.
I've picked up mosta my tips from sharing a shack with veteran walleye pros and ice angling icons Bro Brosdahl, Mark Martin, Mike Gofron and Mark Brumbaugh on hard-water venues from Lake Fanny Hooe to Saginaw Bay, and I'm gonna pass them along to you just for showing up.
Take along a couple of medium action ice rods spooled with 6- to 14-pound line and 6- to 10-pound fluorocarbon leader, a tip-up or two, ice auger, ice creepers for traction and a camp chair. A heater doesn't hurt and you'll be glad you brought your favorite antifreeze.
It takes practice to develop a yiggin' technique that fish can't resist. Selecting the right yig for the yob and tying it on with a Yooper knot further enhances your luck. My tastes run to the venerable Yooper-made Swedish Pimples, Do-Jiggers and Vinglas from Bay de Noc Lures, Gladstone. I also like Jiggin' Raps, Northland Puppet and Macho Minnows, and Mepps Syclops. Rig 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jigs either naked, tipped with fish eyes, smelt, Berkley Gulp grubs, maggots or minnows, or a small, nervous emerald shiner.
Experiment with bait movement, subtle to overt. Start at the bottom and work your way up, wiggling, twitching, shaking, swishing. You're imitating a wounded baitfish, and you never know what's going to trigger the bite.
If there's one thing I know for sure, the best time to go fishing is whenever you can. They never bite until you get there anyway. Prime time for ice fishing is daybreak and dusk, when fish feed most aggressively. Sunrise and sunset are your best bet for the best bite on most waters, whether you're jigging a shallow weed bed on Chassell Bay or mining for lake trout on Keweenaw Bay. These photoperiods of changing light levels trigger vertical migration of zooplankton, which turns on the fish.
For information on ice fishing products mentioned in this column, visit baydenoclure.com, swedishpimple.com, northlandtackle.com, rapalausa. com, mepps.com, purefishing.com, clamcorp.com, frabill.com, otteroutdoors. com, naturevisioninc.com, snosuit.com, strikemaster. com, stormykromer.com, getafishtv.com and vexilar. com.
For bait, ice conditions and fishing reports, call Indian Country Sports, L'Anse (524-6518), Harter Mountain, Calumet (337-0913), Northwoods Sporting Goods, Hancock (482-5210) Gas Lite General Store, Copper Harbor, (289-4652), Northwoods Bait Shop, Chassell (523-4878), Fish On II Guide Service, Lac la Belle (289-4481), Greig's Taxidermy & Tackle, Ontonagon (884-2770), Russ's Bait & Tackle, Lake Gogebic (365-5505).
WW&W 2010 Winter Outdoor Calendar
Jan. 9, Otter Lake Sportsmen's Ice Fishing Tournament, Tapiola, 334-2795
Jan. 30, Winter Carnival Blue Key Ice Fishing Tournament, 487-2818, email@example.com
Jan. 30, Heikinpaiva Midwinter Festival, pasty.com/heikki
Jan. 31, Muskrat & mink trapping ends, raccoon hunting ends
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.